Congressman John Barrow paid a visit to Statesboro Friday as part of his “Rural Listening Tour.” He told about 40 people at the Bulloch County Center for Agriculture that it was his 18th stop this week as he visited counties in the 12th Congressional District in order to discuss issues and listen to citizens’ concerns.
Before taking on questions, Barrow invited people in the audience to stay afterwards and talk to him and his staff one-on-one about personal concerns.
“I’m primarily here for the rural communities,” he said.
The first question fielded was about the proposed Veteran’s Administration Clinic planned for the Statesboro area.
Barrow said the “high tech” facility is expected to be built within the next year. Ray Hendrix, local veteran who has been active in bringing such a clinic to the area, said if a facility can be found that fits the needs, building a new facility won’t be necessary and could mean the clinic maybe up and running by summer.
“This took way too long in my opinion for it to happen,” Barrow said. The Bulloch County area is a “hugely underserved population.”
The primary care facility will be open four days a week, he said.
Another question was what can Congress do to stop borrowing and spending excessively. He said shaving spending” and taking the matter seriously is what is needed. “It can be done. It is a poor commentary that Congress can’t prioritize where the cuts are.” Congress plans to cut $2.2 trillion over the next 10 years, “but it’s not enough, in my opinion,” he said.
In discussing Medicare, Barrow agreed pharmaceutical companies have a high influence on matters, and pointed out that many doctors and medical facilities are pulling away for Medicare because of not being reimbursed as they want for medical services.
While other countries limit what can be charged by doctors, “it is fundamentally un-American to tell somebody how much they can make,” he said.
When someone asked about term limits for congressmen, Barrow said doing so would make things worse than they are. “If the voters want someone (in office) they should be able to keep them,” he said. He also said a large part of Congress’s problems are some members cater more to the party than to citizens.
“Term limits would probably make existing problems worse,” he said.
Another topic discussed was Medicare fraud. Barrow agreed fraud is an increasingly serious issue. “The way to combat it is to prosecute the people who get caught,” he said. “It is a serious problem and it will take serious money to do it.”
He criticized the trend of borrowing money from Social Security, but assured the audience monies borrowed will be replaced. “I don’t think it is good policy to borrow from Social Security to cover tax cuts,” he said. “I think it is disparaging to call Social Security an entitlement… you pay into it… it is vitally important that we keep it. I will say Social Security is in better shape than Medicare.”
Taxes were another hot topic of discussion. Barrow said he did not support the Fair Tax, adding that it taxes the poor more than the rich because the poor “ spend everything they make” to survive while more affluent people save the majority of money they make, and a Fair Tax would not apply to money they did not spend.
“I believe we need a progressive tax,” he said. “What I don’t agree with about the Fair Tax is it is a regressive tax.”
He said holes in tax codes should be closed and tax brackets should remain based on income.
“We need to pull our tax codes out of the water and scrape all the barnacles off it,” he said.
After the question session, Barrow and his staff spent time with several individuals discussing private concerns.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.